If there’s anything Hollywood does best, it’s protect their own. Many actors, directors and producers have interesting reputations for their offscreen behavior and as long as it doesn’t make TMZ, everyone politely turns their heads and sweeps it under the carpet, particularly if you’re a talent that brings in megabucks at the box office. That is unless you’re Fatty Arbuckle or, moving forward many, many decades, Mel Gibson.
You just can’t make up the saga of Mel Gibson, the one time box office superstar and heartthrob, whose drunk driving arrest found him spouting sexist, racist slurs which was later followed by violent and abusive rants to his ex-wife. While there’s no way this came out of nowhere, Hollywood has pretty much kept a tight lip on any prior indiscretions by the troubled star. Until now. In a recent interview with GQ (via the LA Times), Winona Ryder recounts meeting a very drunk Mel Gibson years ago and there are some very familiar, off-putting details. “I remember, like, 15 years ago, I was at one of those big Hollywood parties,” Ryder said. “And he was really drunk. I was with my friend, who’s gay. He made a really horrible gay joke. And somehow it came up that I was Jewish. He said something about ‘oven dodgers,’ but I didn’t get it. I’d never heard that before. It was just this weird, weird moment. I was like, ‘He’s anti-Semitic and he’s homophobic.’ No one believed me!”
We believe you Winona. Now the question becomes, is Ryder the only one brave enough to counter the new Gibson narrative that combines his alcoholism and provocation from his ex-wife Oksana Grigorieva as the reason behind his outrageous behavior and objectionable views on every ethnic and sexual minority that isn’t Mel Gibson? It remains to be seen, but certainly, Ryder has nudged that door open a little further.
It will be interesting to see how this all plays out in the run-up to the March 23, 2011 release of “The Beaver.” While the traditional forgiveness route should find Mel Gibson weeping with Oprah, Barbara Walters and Matt Lauer in the run-up to the release of the film, we believe that for the public, it still won’t be enough. Mel Gibson has run so afoul of the lines of decency and his own onscreen persona, that it’s fairly unprecedented. We’re sure there will be a massive curiosity factor around “The Beaver” (hell, he plays a troubled man who begins to communicate through a hand puppet — who isn’t curious about that?) and we won’t be surprised if it brings in some decent box office coin. But it’s likely that the film will only serve as a very minor step in any attempt Gibson makes to try and return the public sphere.